In the Limelight: The Art of Hearing Audiologist Dusty Jessen wants clients to understand that better hearing requires more than just technology. In the Limelight
In the Limelight  |   March 01, 2014
In the Limelight: The Art of Hearing
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Hearing & Speech Perception / Hearing Disorders / In the Limelight
In the Limelight   |   March 01, 2014
In the Limelight: The Art of Hearing
The ASHA Leader, March 2014, Vol. 19, 24-25. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.19032014.24
The ASHA Leader, March 2014, Vol. 19, 24-25. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.19032014.24
Name:Dusty Jessen, AuD
Position:Director of audiology at Columbine Audiology, Inc.; founder of Cut to the Chase Communication, LLC
Hometown:Loveland, Colo.
“So, I’m the speaker and you are all the listeners right now,” audiologist Dusty Jessen explains to her audience at a Rotary Club meeting in Denver. “Here are some things you need to do to be an active listener. You need to stop chewing; you need to read ahead in the program and anticipate what I’m going to talk about. After all, what if I started talking about real estate all of a sudden?”
This is one of a dozen talks Jessen has given in the Denver area since May 2013. At retirement homes, service clubs, recreation centers and senior care centers, Jessen has been on a mission to spread the word about how hearing technology isn’t the silver bullet to better hearing. There’s also the human element.
“People expect miracles from their hearing aids and don’t realize that they also need to modify their own behavior and their environment,” she says. “They also have to teach their communication partners to be better communicators. That’s where education needs to come in. Hearing aids get such a bad rap but a hearing aid is never going to stop family members from talking to them from the other side of the room.”
Often accompanied by her two sons, Caleb and Brody, whom she home-schools, Jessen is determined to continue presenting to her audiences—mostly retirees—for as long as it takes to get the word out about changing hearing behavior. A natural presenter, she likes to make the presentations humorous using a fictitious “Mr. and Mrs. Jones” who have conversations such as Mr. Jones asking for a loaf of bread and Mrs. Jones thinking he is saying he is going to bed.
“That usually gets them laughing,” Jessen says. “Especially when spouses are in the audience, I always see them look at their spouse and say, ‘That’s you!’”
Jessen grew up in Loveland, Colo., with her parents and brother. She was the firstborn and describes herself as the “typical overachiever.” Her mother was a nurse, and Jessen says that connection may have had something to do with her initial interest in the medical field. But it was her grandmother (who had bilateral cochlear implants) and her cousins (who had speech and language delays) that steered her toward the professions.
Once in college, she found that she preferred the structure of audiology to that of speech-language pathology.
“I was especially drawn to the rehabilitative aspects of audiology,” she says. “I loved the idea of helping patients to overcome their hearing challenges.”
When Jessen began practicing as an audiologist, she noticed that patients expected unrealistic miracles from hearing aids and often weren’t educated on the behavioral changes necessary to get the most from the devices. So she developed an education system ( to help patients better understand this vital behavioral component. She calls the most critical aspects of the hearing experience the five keys: the speaker, the listener, the environment, the technology (of course) and the most important one—practice.
“There are behavior modifications when it comes to the speaker and listener, and there are things we can change in our environment that we didn’t realize were affecting our ability to hear,” she explains. “But practice is key because you can have all the other parts, but if you don’t practice using them, it won’t work.”
And the reception from the audiences has been most supportive, Jessen says. Although she gets a fair amount of questions about ear wax, she feels like she is helping people understand what they can and cannot expect from hearing aids, and other ways to cope with hearing loss. She is excited to share her message with larger audiences this year, starting in June at the Hearing Loss Association of America’s national convention.
“This is always time well spent—to make people more aware of what’s needed for successful communication,” Jessen said. “I hope my little presentations are making a big difference for people who are frustrated by hearing loss.”
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March 2014
Volume 19, Issue 3